SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A Springfield man was recently given one of the top honors in the state from law enforcement. Jerry Pendergrass is a conceal carry owner who turned citizen cop in a life or death situation. Springfield police and the Missouri Police Chiefs Association awarded Pendergrass the President's Citizen Award.
His quick action helped save an officer potentially from getting shot.
The incident happened on June 4, 2018. That night was life ending for one man and life changing for several others.
"That probably actually happened in ten seconds," explained Pendergrass.
Those ten seconds play over and over again for Pendergrass.
"I still once a day go wow, that happened!"
His bullet met a man in his backyard-- a man who had already fired shots at Officer Sean Kelly, and had taken off on foot.
"He just kind of rounded the corner, he drew his weapon at me, I drew my weapon at him and we both-- he backed away to house, I backed away behind a tree," said Officer Kelly.
It was a volatile situation to say the least. Then another officer, Officer Andy Zinke found himself face to face - and seemingly alone - with a man who had already tried to kill an officer.
"After I shot this guy I went to re-load and my gun jammed, and I looked down at my gun and I turned and there's Jerry standing there with his gun. It bought me that second," said Officer Zinke.
That second was all it took for the armed suspect to draw his weapon again and point it right at Zinke. But Jerry's gun was not jammed.
"That guy sat back up on his knees and looked directly at me and that's when I was telling him hey stop, hey stop-- you can live. I mean it doesn't have to end here. You can live," Pendergrass yelled. "There is an ambulance in front of the house that can get you help right now. He looked at me, looked at his gun and I said no don't look at the gun. With me saying that, Zinke was able to stop moving around and bring his attention back and it was at the same time that he brought his attention back that we both ended up-- the man reached for the gun and we shot him."
"It was one of those things where you could see there's a stranger there with a gun it could really be a very scary environment, but I saw it just in his face, just in the way Jerry was-- he wasn't a threat that the other guy was, and instantly that brought me some relief," said Officer Zinke. "Not a lot of people would do something like that... certainly we don't encourage people to do that, people without training, but what Jerry did on his own, the bravery that he showed-- it was something pretty remarkable that day and I was blessed to have him over there," Zinke said.
Zinke's family and Jerry's family are forever thankful. Jerry's niece was inside the house that night. She says she was keenly aware of her uncle's race, half African American, and praying it wouldn't be a factor. And it wasn't.
"There wasn't a controversy, there wasn't a fear between the two of us," Zinke said. He says Jerry's countenance told him everything he needed to know. "I didn't recognize his race or color at that moment in time. It was just somebody there who was being supportive. He was a guardian that day."